UH soccer is looking to redeem itself with familiar and fresh faces a year after missing the conference tournament by just one game.
Head coach Diego Bocanegra and his staff have worked hard in the offseason and added 13 new players, including 11 freshmen and two transfers.
Houston is also finding comfort in several returning players like senior goalkeeper Rachel Estopare, sophomore forward Jazmin Grant and sophomore midfielder Mia Brascia.
The Cougar spoke with Bocanegra to discuss the new season and the team’s long-term goals moving forward.
The Cougar: What has been the team’s main focus so far in the offseason?
Bocanegra: We spent a lot of the spring working on our mentality and working on being more resilient and stronger mentally.
TC: How did those things affect the team last season, and how might they help moving forward?
Bocanegra: By the end of the season, once the coaching staff and the players got on the same page, we started doing really well. We added to that. Our returners stepped it up a notch: a little harder in the weight room, a little harder in their fitness and their mentality. I’m excited because I think all that is going to carry over, finally coming together this fall.
TC: There are a lot of new players coming in this season. What do you think they will add to the team?
Bocanegra: The raw talent that we have coming in increases our soccer playing level. I think we will be able to use more players this year, which will be a major advantage for us.
TC: The returning players are one of the team’s greatest strengths, but what will be the team’s greatest challenge? What do you think will be an obstacle that the team will have to overcome?
Bocanegra: We have all the pieces of the puzzle, but making sure we all get on the same page will be our biggest obstacle. I truly believe that we have a team capable of competing with anyone and everyone on our schedule. If we focus on coming together, our results will take care of themselves.
TC: You spoke of not wanting any one player to carry the load of the team, but who do you think will be the difference maker in the tougher games?
Bocanegra: We’re always going to rely on some of our veteran players that have the most experience. That core of our leadership group will have an influence on everyone else.
TC: Which teams are you looking forward to playing?
Bocanegra: Houston Baptist, Lamar, Prairie View, Incarnate Word, Sam Houston, even McNeese in the neighboring state of Louisiana. Those games are always exciting because they are regional rivals.
TC: How excited are you about the potential your team has going into the 2018–2019 season?
Bocanegra: We’ve been waiting for this since the end of last season. We knew the players that we have coming in. We’ve seen the returners and their ability to continue to grow. I think this year we are going to take a massive step toward what we’re trying to accomplish, which is being a team that can contend with anyone in the nation.